Intervention is proactive steps taken by family, friends or community of people who need help to overcome substance abuse. In other words, If your loved one has a problem with substance misuse, a critical first step is to help them agree to the treatment they need. That's where intervention can help.
Recoveries are usually complex and require a lot of time and attention.
Four Popular Types of Interventions
- Simple intervention
Rather than staging a massive gathering of people to confront your loved one, sometimes a single family member facing the addicted person, asking them to stop using drugs and begin a comprehensive addiction treatment program is all it takes to bring about change. With or without a professional present to assist, this one-on-one intervention can be very effective.
- Classical intervention
A classical intervention begins with a planning session that comprises everyone except the addicted person. This type of intervention often includes counsel and education for all family members and participants and is usually classified as a Johnson Model intervention. In this type of intervention, family members talk about their part before the official intervention begins. A counsellor or interventionist can help prepare every participant to handle all the intervention's potential outcomes. This type of intervention often offers support to both the addicted person and that person's family members.
- Family system intervention
This type of intervention is based on the “family systems” theory and treatment. When multiple people in a family struggle with an addiction, co-dependence or conflict, this approach can help treat both the addiction and the family bonds. Family members often continue beyond the initial intervention, and all family members are encouraged to participate in family counselling and coaching. The addicted person benefits from a changed family experience and greater motivation to recover once everyone gives needed support.
- Crisis intervention
Sometimes, a crisis occurs in an addicted person's life, making it clear to them and everyone else that rehab is necessary. Rather than planning out an intervention, situations in which the addicted person has become a danger to himself or those around him can immediately intervene. The primary objective will be to stabilise the situation and optimise safety. Often, a little hard love needed in these situations to save a life. Rehabilitation can quickly follow.
Goals of an Intervention
An intervention is a meeting where family and friends have a calm and open discussion with their loved ones about their substance misuse and ask them to accept treatment.
Interventions try to achieve results like:
Open the person's vision to the effect their substance misuse has on family and friends.
Get the person with substance use disorder to agree that they have a crisis and need assistance.
Create a strategy for recovery with step-by-step objectives and guidelines.
Gently warn your loved one about what each friend or family member will do if they refuse treatment. For example, you might say you will no longer join them if they want “a drink or two to unwind” after work.
Families sometimes invite an “interventionist” to plan and moderate the meeting. Typically, interventionists are doctors or licensed counsellors. A professional will educate family members on addiction and prepare them for what to expect during and after the meeting.
Along with a professional, an intervention typically includes essential family members, friends, and co-workers. It shouldn't involve children or people with substance use disorder dislikes.
Keys to a Successful Intervention(How)
Experts recommend you follow these tips to make your intervention successful:
Don't wait until the last minute to scheme the intervention. Organise, prepare, and educate yourselves on addiction well in advance.
The time it right:
Schedule the intervention for a time of day or day of the week when your loved one is less likely to be under the effect of drugs or alcohol. The person with substance use disorder shouldn't know about the intervention in advance. Your loved one should learn the reason for the gathering after they arrive.
Communicate with team members:
Talk to and coordinate with everyone beforehand. Make sure they all have the same information. If possible, team members should meet before the intervention and rehearse what they intend to say.
Your loved one may feel threatened, react angrily, and refuse help. Be prepared to stay calm and rational. Don't reply with anger.
Stick to the plan. Your friend or family member may attempt to change the topic or deflect the conversation away from themselves. Don't let that happen.
Insist on an answer. Tell your loved one they must agree to a treatment plan at the intervention. Don't accept a request for “a day or two to think about it.” They may go into hiding or on a binge.
Also, be ready for rejection despite your efforts. If your loved one refuses to accept help, follow through with your gentle warnings, but stay positive and hopeful. Each attempt to reach out could be the one that finally makes a difference.
Other strategies to prevent drug abuse, especially in teens, include:
Know your teen's activities. Pay attention to your teen's whereabouts. Establish rules and consequences. Know your teen's friends. Keep track of prescription drugs. Provide support and Set a good example.
When to Intervene
Often it is difficult to approach someone struggling with addiction. The substance abuser might not open up about it, making it more challenging for dialogue and consequent help.
Listed below are some of the early signs of substance abuse you should look for :
• Secretive behaviour
• Borrowing money
• Aggressive behaviour
• Deterioration of physical appearance
• Lack of energy or motivation
• Problems at work or school
• Health issues
Many people with an addiction also struggle with other problems, like eating disorders.
Bennie was in high school when, severely depressed, she was forced to withdraw from her classes. Rather than seek out counselling, Bennie says she “turned to drugs and alcohol. I nearly killed myself partying.”
She explains that the reason for preceding professional help goes back to the environment in which she was raised. “Growing up religious, happiness was directly tied to righteousness.” As a result, not only did Bennie not recognise her depression for what it was, but those who should have been there for her, the ones whose responsibility it was to intervene, actively discouraged her from seeking the help she needed.
“I was always met with the same advice—don't tell anyone, pray, avoid stigma.”
Without the support she needed, she sought comfort in the only place she could think of: drugs and alcohol.
Bennie attributes a five-month, court-ordered rehab program to her life-saving.
Overcoming Shame and Stigma
According to Ashley Groesbeck, a licensed clinical social worker practising in New York City, R.'s story is not uncommon.
“There is a tremendous amount of shame and stigma around mental illness and addiction,” she says, adding this is especially true for the latter, which is often “seen as people just not having enough self-control.”
And where there is stigma, there is fear—be it to suggest help or seek help.
Groesbeck, who has worked with veterans and traumatised youth and families for seven years, suggests “keeping that shame factor in mind” when approaching a loved one about addiction, realising that it can lead people to hide their behaviours.
For this reason, Groesbeck said that as unorthodox as it may seem, ask loved ones what they enjoy about their addiction. In doing so, she says, you allow the person to acknowledge what they get out of it, leaving them more open to accepting the downsides, such as missing work or strained relationships and budgets.
After you allow them to explore the pros and cons on their own, Groesbeck says it's a good idea to ask them if they have thought about getting help. “The odds are they have.”
Baltimore-based psychiatrist Dr Mark Komrad notes that it is not your responsibility to diagnose your loved one. The author of the book You Need Help! A Step-by-Step Plan to Convince a Loved One to Get Counseling explains his approach as such: “You know that something is wrong with your loved one's thoughts, feelings, or behaviours. You aren't sure how to understand it, what to call it. But you do know that the problem needs more help and more evaluation than you as a caring supporter can provide.”
According to Groesbeck, the most important thing is to make sure you are coming from a place of love. “If you watch the show Intervention, they're all about cutting friends and family off and talking about all the ways the addiction has hurt them. That probably has a place, but that's not the place you start. The place you start is ‘I'm apprehensive about you, and here are the reasons why.' Then, ‘I'm wondering if it's because you've been drinking more because you've been using drugs more.'”
Komrad agrees that beginning with a gentle approach is best, explaining that more drastic measures, such as putting the relationship on the line, are best saved as a last resort given addicts' propensities to drive problematic behaviour underground. The same goes for taking away the physical alcohol or drug during those initial stages, says Groesbeck. “And the more the behaviour is hidden, the more pathological it becomes,” she says. “Healthy families don't have secrets.”
The power of stigma in deterring treatment is not the only theme in R's story that is common to addiction. While she admits the numbers are “nebulous,” Groesbeck says as many as 25 to 30 per cent of people with addictions have a co-occurring mental illness, be it depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.
Also unclear is which came first—the chemical addiction or the mental illness. “It's completely chicken and egg,” she notes. Muddying the waters is the fact that the two share many symptoms depending on where they are in their addiction-mental illness cycle.
As many as 25 to 30% of people with addictions have a co-occurring mental illness, be it depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.
Lasting recovery is far more likely when both issues are treated together. Groesbeck says that doing so is “enormously important,” as is helping a person “understand the interplay between their addictions and mental health illnesses.”
In R.'s case, it took more than ten years after she left rehab before being diagnosed correctly with dysthymia, a form of chronic depression. She managed to avoid relapse, but it wasn't easy. “I think if I'd known, I would have been a real adult sooner,” R. says. “I spent way too much time hiding from life in bed when I could have been advancing my career, developing relationships—that sort of thing.”
Groesbeck admits that finding a facility that treats both addiction and mental illness can be difficult. “Most places tend to treat just one or the other.” Still, she says, it might be worth the extra investigation. “In the end, all evidence suggests dual diagnosis is vital
Ben Lesser is one of the most sought-after experts in health, fitness and medicine. His articles impress with unique research work as well as field-tested skills. He is a freelance medical writer specializing in creating content to improve public awareness of health topics. We are honored to have Ben writing exclusively for Dualdiagnosis.org.